“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Coming out of depression, anxiety or any sort of chaotic state of mind is a bit like telling a good story. You always start up by describing the situation and introducing the main players. In fact I would say that it is important with every problem that you may have to solve, so when I was trying to get out of my chaotic state of mind, something that had dominated my mind for most of my life, I turned to the one thing I have always loved; stories.

I thought about the idea of cognitive behavioral therapy where people with anxiety issues are slowly exposed voluntarily to what causes them anxiety. So for instance I am a huge fan of Brian Barczyk on Youtube and he does work with reptiles. The way he uses slow and voluntary exposure to snakes and other reptiles is exactly what people might need to help them over their fear. There are also other ways of resolving those issues.

I used to have a big issues with tall buildings; both standing next to them and being on top of the with nothing above me. Now I have not completely gotten over that issue. There is still a part of me that recoils in fear of the thought of standing on top of Holmenkollen ski jumping hill and having nothing above me, but the problem of standing next to big buildings and looking up at them, isn’t that big anymore.

How did I manage this? It wasn’t just done in a day of exposing myself to tall buildings and hoping that the thoughts of jumping off them or being pushed off would slowly disappear. In fact they are still there. It is a matter of becoming braver in other aspects of my life, becoming the hero that I always admired in my favorite books.

I went into therapy about a year ago to try and figure out if I could overcome this. It wasn’t just the issues of tall buildings. I was a bundle of nerves that had huge issues getting untangled. Fear of what other people thought of me, fear of death, fear of never being loved and so and so on. It was not easy looking in on myself without seeing reflections of my flaws magnified, but the hero’s journey does start with a single step. Like Bilbo Baggins, I needed to step outside to find the courage to live again.

I started to read a lot of Joseph Campbell and other people who have a great insight into the connection between the human mind and the stories we tell each other and I started to realize that treating my journey out of depression could be seen as a mythical journey out of Hell or some other damned place.

By slowly wandering through Hell and facing what I feared about myself, not being loved and dying alone, I started to understand that these thoughts may not disappear, but at least I can become better at handling them. Like a hero fighting monsters, you need to realize that there will always be monsters and that you just need to be better at fighting them.

This week I have wandered around thinking about how I can explain the start of what I think is needed to drag yourself out of the hell of your own or your mind’s making, and all I could think of was that hobbit leaving what was comfortable to face all the dangers of the world and becoming braver. This is why I think reading can be a great tool in recovering from anxiety, depression or any other fear. Steeling yourself by finding heroes and seeing them in your own mind, can help you face your own fears.

I hope this was helpful for those that might be suffering in the world from fear or negative thoughts. I do not think this is the only solution, but it could be a good tool to have in your toolbox.


JH Lillevik is a writer of sci-fi and fantasy. He writes screenplays, novels and short stories. He also works as a writing consultant for upcoming writers. His specialty is mythology, world building and psychology.

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